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All of my life, the dominant position of Fletchers in the construction industry has been discussed. In some ways the firm has been the East India Company of NZ - practically indistinguishable from the government itself. Apparently Sir James Fletcher's wife used to work as a legal secretary for my grandfather - and he said it was the best thing she ever did quitting her job with him to go and work at Fletcher's, where she met Sir James.

Anyhow, the Commerce Commission has just come up with a report on the construction industry which recommends, according to Newshub:

- Introducing competition as an objective to be promoted in the building regulatory system

- Promoting compliance with the Commerce Act

Golly, gee whiz. "Introducing competition". Encouraging "compliance" with the law. Minister Clark responded by saying,"In the coming weeks and months, we will talk to stakeholders, with a Government response expected in March 2023". Don't stress yourself. Maybe just keep talking and meeting in the coming, weeks, months, years and decades. And have a good summer holiday, Mr Clark - and when you get back to the office maybe you can start working on that "government response". Why not aim for March 2024?

What a gutless wonder the Commerce Commission has become. The politicians who oversee it are certainly no Teddy Roosevelts - he introduced the anti Trust legislation in the US over a century ago. The Roosevelt administration sued successfully to break up such monopolies as Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Co. and J.P. Morgan’s Northern Securities Co., a railroad conglomerate that the U.S. Supreme Court dissolved.

Why doesn't our political establishment have the guts to break up Fletchers once and for all?


When it comes to non-economic, moral issues, ACT regularly shows off its "libertarian" credentials. For example, the party lobbied hard & successfully in favor of end-of-life-choice legislation. Its' leader, David Seymour, has said he favors legalization of cannabis & the party speaks out frequently in favor of "freedom of speech". Yes, liberty of choice reigns.

Or does it? When it comes to economics, the party of Richard Prebble & Sir Roger Douglas has now abandoned many of it pro-market principles & instead morphed into advocating good old fashioned socialism in some crucial policy areas. It may take you aback to hear that claim, so here's some evidence.

Let's look at health-care, which is the single biggest item of government spending. Many of the best health systems in the world are based around the concept of universal health-care, implemented by way of social insurance schemes (that pool risks). The majority of providers in these systems are private, often non-for-profits. The patient (& GP) have the freedom - the liberty - to choose the best, highest quality place to go. That choice can be a private, or a public, supplier. Regardless of type, the bill is paid for by social insurance. Under these systems, the money follows the patient. Under our system, it's the other way around.

Is the pro choice, pro freedom-to-choose health-care system the one that the ACT Party supports, given it's meant to be a party with pro-market, libertarian principles?

No. Instead, this is their health policy: “ACT’s commitment is to remove the Māori Health Authority & turn policy away from Labour’s race obsession. Instead, we should be focused on the best public services that get results for NZ'ers from every background, including Māori.”

So what is this policy? It's about promoting a State-owned, socialized health-care system, one focused on "public services", provided by public providers. Yes, the Party wants a big, inefficient State-run health-care system - just one that doesn't have a Māori Health Authority. As such, there's nothing in ACT's health-care policy that would solve the problems in the Kiwi health system today. Nothing that would improve quality, nor increase efficiency. The Party is simply trying to muster votes on health-care by playing the race card.

Why doesn't ACT have the imagination to propose a pro-market policy that encourages private (non-for-profit) health-care providers to offer services - Māori and non-Māori alike - whereby folks are given the choice of where to go? That kind of system would ensure high quality providers expanded and low quality ones disappeared. Such a system would require health-care services to be transparently priced.

But no, not only is ACT copying Labour's tax policies, they're also copying Labour's health-care policies, minus the Māori Health Authority. Yes, ACT are now "libertarian" primarily only with respect to non-economic issues.

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Robert MacCulloch

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